Our readers talk back.
More to the Villas Story
In response to Nick Barbaro's January 18 "Page Two" concerning the Villas on Guadalupe development, I would like to say that Mr. Barbaro's column and the letters printed on this issue did not tell the whole story.
University Area Partners is a neighborhood association representing residential, business, nonprofit and student interests in the University area. The boundaries of our organization extend from Lamar to I-35, MLK to 29th. As the neighborhood in which this development is physically located, we supported a modified MF-6 Zoning for the Villas on Guadalupe development with conditions, which among other things restricted the total density, mandated additional parking, and required specific pedestrian improvements in the public right of way. The position we have taken on this proposed development, which is after all adjacent to UT, and close to other high-density student housing, is a position similar to that which we have taken on other recent proposed MF-6 development in this neighborhood. Council has unanimously supported those other zoning changes. At a City Council hearing on the Villas on Guadalupe, various representatives of our organization, business and property owners in the area, representatives of UT Student Government, including the student body president, and representatives of the university, including Dr. Austin Gleeson, Chairman of the Master Planning Committee, and others all spoke in favor of this project and the desperate need to provide housing for students close to the university. This development within our borders is consistent with all the neighborhood planning we have done and with our stated goals to increase and improve student housing, beautify Guadalupe Street, and improve pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure in our area.
The Chronicle states that it supports pedestrian development, urban infrastructure, and not building over the watershed. This project is urban infill that locates students within walking distance of the university and on a major mass transit line.
University Area Partners
Education and the New Economy
Privatizing management of public schools sounds like a cure-all for problem schools, but Edison's proposal is a bad option for AISD ["Can Edison Pass the AISD Test?" Jan. 25]. To make AISD profitable from its current break-even state, one must either increase revenue or cut costs. Edison can't increase revenue because they can't control tuition (the district's budgeted per-pupil expenditure) or the amount of students attending, the way private schools can.
The other way to make a profit is cut costs. Edison uses this route, most notably by replacing experienced, quality teachers with younger, inexperienced, and therefore cheaper teachers. Edison makes it unclear how else it lowers the costs of running a school district in its proposal to AISD, but its $177 million of debt in July 2001 shows that it hasn't found success in making schools profitable. This indicates that even more cost-cutting is on the way to reach profitability.
If Edison's management skill does really amount to that type of cost savings, a business manager with similar skills could be hired to perform the same service. In fact, a business manager is all one really gets with the Edison plan. According to an Indiana school district that recently signed with Edison, "The only Edison employee in the township will be a business manager. 'We'll be flying on our own,' [Principal Ann] Puckett-Harpold said." (Indianapolis Star, Jan 29.)
To add business skill, AISD could hire some of the many recent MBA graduates who have the skills in negotiation, sourcing multiple vendors and contracting with consultants. The business manager's compensation could be tied to a percentage of the cost savings they generate. Also, the school board, unlike in Edison's proposal, can approve the group's cost-cutting recommendations. This way, AISD can still reap the benefit of business management skill without sacrificing the goals of our educational system.
University of Texas MBA '02
'Naked City' Name Calling
In last week's [Feb. 1] "Naked City" column, Lauri Apple called Jennifer Gale "Austin's most politically active homeless transvestite."
First of all, where does Ms. Apple get the right to indulge in such vicious name-calling just because she has some opinion of the way someone looks or acts? And what has Jennifer Gale done to deserve such treatment?
Secondly, by what stretch of illogic does Ms. Apple define "transvestitism." In the photo accompanying the article, Jennifer Gale is dressed as she always dresses -- as far as I know -- in a heavy sweatshirt, jeans (I believe), and, presumably, running shoes (as she was the one time I saw her on the street). The worst that can be said of this wardrobe is that it is unisex. I know nothing of Lauri Apple's taste in clothes, but I suspect that she has worn a sweatshirt and jeans from time to time. Does that make her a transvestite?
Thirdly, unlike shoot-from-the-hip types like Ms. Apple, I would not speculate on the sexuality of others -- especially in print. Decades ago John Henry Faulk successfully sued a blacklist service called A.W.A.R.E. for labeling him a Communist just because they disagreed with his opinions on the radio. I think Jennifer Gale may have as good a case for libel here, and if she is indeed homeless now, maybe she won't be for long.
[Ed. note: As noted in the byline of "Naked City," Lauri Apple is the editor of that section. She is not necessarily the author of each item. The item to which Ms. Richardson refers was actually written by City Editor Mike Clark-Madison.]
Who Are You Calling Self-Righteous?
Dear Louis Black,
Who do you think you are you to call the Naderites' "ridiculously self righteous" ["Page Two," Feb. 1]? Why do you put such a label on these good people -- who happen to be sick of American BS as usual, and want to see some major changes in government?! Apparently you're comfortable in your executive position, with your investments, privileges, and prestige. I guess you couldn't care less about the ills of our appallingly screwed-up society and you would probably laugh if someone suggested that the masses in this country are asleep and dreaming that they're awake -- when they are in a very real sense, like slaves in a Matrix-like scenario. Evidently, you dreamed along with many others that Gore would have been lots better than Bush and that today's mess is the fault of the Naderites (who in your myopic view "gave it to Bush"). Like most news media bosses, you appear to be another victim of the most successful and complex propaganda system ever. Rather than make yourself look like an idiot, I encourage you to focus on your specialty -- those escapes from reality which everyone needs (entertainment) and refrain from criticizing people who happen to have a broader perspective and deeper interest in the well being of humanity and the world than you.
P.S. I've seen you label bicycle enthusiasts as "self-righteous" too, and in my view that reflects extremely poor judgement on your part. Maybe a few of them are self-righteous, but take a look in the mirror man! We're much better off with them (bicycle enthusiasts) than we would be without them.
Good for Goodman
Last Thursday, a watershed moment occurred quietly at the City Council meeting, slipping under press radar due to the lateness of the hour -- midnight. In question was an appeal by folks in the Stassney/Manchaca area to prevent a huge apartment complex from being built in the middle of their residential neighborhood.
A 1983 site plan had been accepted years ago by neighbors, featuring owner-occupied single story homes and duplexes for retirees. In 2000, a Houston development group proposed to ignore that intent and build a 496-unit apartment complex, featuring three-story buildings and greatly increased traffic and the general impact associated with a younger, more active groups of renters.
Two years of neighborhood protest resulted in an appeal to the City Council. Austin's Land Development Code provides an extremely narrow basis of appeal in this case, but in spite of the legal hurdles, the neighbors felt they had no choice but to try.
Against withering legal advice from the city's own lawyer, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman gave a three-minute capsule summary of South Austin's decades-old struggle between neighborhoods and massive apartment complexes. She concluded that a "good faith" agreement had been reached in 1983 that was still binding, and said to override that agreement now would make a "mockery" of the neighborhood association system.
Her motion was seconded by Council Member Daryl Slusher, a 5-2 vote followed without further discussion, and the neighbor's appeal was granted. Implicit was a pent-up desire by the council to reassert the worth of residential neighborhoods, after several years of assault by "Smart Growth" policies.
The Cherry Creek SW Neighborhood Association would like to formally applaud the political courage of Council Members Jackie Goodman, Daryl Slusher, Beverly Griffith, Raul Alvarez, and Danny Thomas. It really does matter who fills those chairs.
I urge homeowners to sign the re-election petitions for Goodman, Slusher, and Griffith, and I thank your for your attention.
Cherry Creek SW Neighborhood Association
Audition Notices Needed
To whom it may concern at The Austin Chronicle:
I am an actor in this town who needs her auditions notices! First of all it is elitist as hell to only put them on the Web page [austinchronicle.com] in the first place, assuming that everyone in Austin has access to the Internet when lots of people (especially starving artists) can't afford Internet access. But to not even have them on the Web page when you say they will be there is wrong. This is information that many people need. We actors can get very cranky if we are out of work too long. Please fix this. If you don't have room for the auditions in the actual paper Chronicle (which you should, there is no reason not to put them in), you need to at least make sure your Web site is up to date. Thank you.
The starving artist Leigh Anderson Fisher
Arts Listings Are Vital
I have been told that the Chronicle will be "cutting back" on its "Out of Town" arts listings. Many arts organizations in the surrounding area depend on the Chronicle to reach a very important audience of committed arts supporters, just as I and many others depend on the Chronicle to find listings for groups that are too small or have too small of a budget to pay for extensive advertising. Your publication and its listings are absolutely vital to the survival of many of these organizations. Please consider continuing to run listings for as many local and surrounding area organizations as possible.
Get Ready for the Draft
State of the Union Address, RE: Freedom Corp/Draft.
Well, young folks, you've got a real good reason to get-your-heads-out-of-asses-quick-time!
Things to Do: Don't Die
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I just found your positive review of my book, Narcocorrido: A Journey Into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas ["Phases and Stages," Jan. 11], and I wanted to write and thank you, and also clear up one question. Your reviewer, after saying that she enjoyed my interviews with the songwriters who have produced the Mexican drug ballad boom, suggests that there is, however, something lacking: "Why not interview drug dealers -- some who reportedly commissioned corridos to document their deeds," she asks. I consider this a very fair question, and can only respond that I had two agendas when I went into the hills of Sinaloa to investigate the narcocorrido phenomenon. One was to learn as much as possible about the subject, and for this purpose I would have loved to get the opinions of some traffickers. Unfortunately, my other agenda was to come home alive. I was forced regretfully to conclude that these agendas might be mutually exclusive. ... However, if your reviewer would care to undertake this part of the investigation, I would gladly do everything in my power to help.
All the best,
In Support of the Villas
I have read with interest recent letters you have published concerning the Villas at Guadalupe project next to the University of Texas campus. I agree with your correspondent Patrick Goetz that the project is a win-win proposal.
Instead of having UT students clogging I-35 from Riverside to UT or racing through NUNA down Guadalupe going from North Lamar apartments to the UT campus, this project will encourage students to live next to the UT campus and remove their car traffic from the commuter congestion of Austin. NUNA should be grateful for this project because the streets will be safer for everyone in Austin.
Thomas W. Smith
A Matter of Safety
I'm writing in opposition to Stratus developers getting their zoning changed from RR to a PUD. The safety issues for 1826 are not being taken seriously enough to get them solved. What Stratus wants will put over 7,000 new trips a day onto 1826! We have enough problems now with getting out of our subdivision. As we exit we have a large dip to our right and we hope no cars are in it as we turn onto 1826. Then to our left we have a large curve with very poor visibility. We don't want to see 1826 become a worse death trap than La Crosse ever could have been. At least La Crosse had four divided lanes with shoulders. FM1826 has none of that. It is only a two-lane road without shoulders, lights, or turn lanes. Four people had to die at La Crosse before CAMPO finally put a light in. How many deaths will it take to get the problems of 1826 taken care of?
Last year during Austin Mardi Gras, a few drunks began fighting. Instead of directly dealing with this issue, the Austin Police Department misguidedly decided to shut the entire event down, penalizing thousands of innocent partyers. Much of the crowd disagreed with these strong-armed tactics, and the situation escalated to a near-riot.
After a year of rumination, APD has concluded it was the sight of bare breasts that spurred the mayhem. They also decided that their jobs would be much less demanding if they simply banned these types of celebrations from the get-go.
Pick Up After Yourself, Greens
I attended the Ralph Nader rally last Saturday night, and was energized by the speeches, especially by Ralph himself. He really is a great example of someone who has stood up for his beliefs throughout his life and has made a difference. However, as I was leaving I was horribly disappointed by the trash that was left strewn over the Burger Center. I would assume that the thousands of people who attended are some of the most environmentally aware in Austin, and if these people cannot be bothered to take their empty soda cans and cups, popcorn bags, and other trash and put them in the trash/recycle bin, what hope is there to educate the rest of the population? Green Party supporters of Austin -- if we really want to make a difference, we need to practice what we preach.
Give Bush Vendetta a Rest
As usual, Mr. Hightower is so far out in left field you have to wonder what planet he is on! Mr. Hightower rightly points out that many Republican politicos have received generous "donations" from Enron ["The Hightower Lowdown," Jan. 25]. What he seems to be almost blind to is that most reports show that Enron was an equal opportunity donor. When Democrats held the upper hand, they also participated in the feast. Like many liberals, Mr. Hightower can't wait for the facts, he needs to jump into a still unclear situation and show us how sharp he is. It is obvious something unethical has happened, maybe waiting for the investigations to proceed before you assign blame or guilt would be more productive? The "Lowdown" is an example of an ex-politician without personal restraint to write about any idea that happens to pop into his head and pass his opinion as fact. Just a suggestion, give the Bush vendetta a rest, you are close to exceeding Rush Limbaugh's fixation with Clinton when he was in office!
West Campus Woes
Several years ago I had a talk with a young man who was president of a well-known fraternity and an officer on Interfraternity Council. He told me about true living conditions in West Campus.
He called West Campus a high-priced slum where overcrowding is a way of life. "His fraternity house," he said, "serves as a sanctuary of quietness, and a place to study for the members who live in West Campus. The level of frustration was so high in the area that tense feelings erupted one night into an all-out war between two fraternities. The members were lined up in battle formation as they fought each other with boards and bricks, a scene he witnessed. "No wonder students in turn erupt into noisy carnival parties on the weekend," he said.
One night a year ago I talked to a policeman whose beat was West Campus. He said it was a place of disorder where each street gets worse each year, and it is creeping northward.
What do I know of West Campus? I live in Heritage Neighborhood which borders it. I think of West Campus as a forest fire that threatens our lands. I've spent 33 years as a neighborhood citizen working to maintain vitality in our area. This activism pays off. What once used to be a near slum of mattresses thrown in yards, cars parked on lawns, and several wild 3am parties every week has metamorphosed into a quiet and thriving place of houses being renovated, families being raised, and nights quiet enough to actually sleep.
The City Council will be deciding soon on Villas of Guadalupe, a high-density student housing development. Does this mean increased disintegration for central Austin? I think it does.
Keep Bigotry off the Air
I was nauseated to hear that in this day and age and in a town like Austin, there still exists a forum for the bigoted hate that spewed forth from the KLBJ 590 AM radio show on Monday morning. Radio personality Sgt. Sam Cox, in reference to scientific evidence that gay parents raise healthy families, said something close to the following: "I don't understand homosexuality. But I don't understand a lot of things, like murder, rape, and homosexuality." KLBJ willingly broadcasts these types of dangerous suggestions? Homosexuality is now grouped with the likes of murder and rape? Since when? Sam Cox might argue he merely stated that he doesn't understand those listed items and meant no correlation among the three things. In that case, how does the following statement strike you? "I don't understand Sam Cox. But I don't understand a lot of things, like retired pedophile cops, pornography-addicted crack-whore white male radio hosts, and Sam Cox." What's the problem? I didn't say there was any correlation among the three things I listed. You must have inferred wrongly. Sam Cox's statement promotes the dangerous and all-too-common vilification of homosexuals that perpetuates "straight" marriages with a spouse in the closet, high suicide rates among gay youth, and violence against gays. I don't understand bigoted radio shows, misanthropic homophobes, and Sam Cox. And, yes, a correlation among these last listed items is intended.
Thanks to Council for Villas Vote
I would like to congratulate our City Council for voting to approve the construction of "Villas on Guadalupe."
I was stunned at the opposition to cleaning up our neighborhood and taking cars off the road. One of the partners of this project has built an apartment complex adjacent to our property and we are proud to have them as our neighbors.
Thank you for your forward thinking and for not backing down on any environmental issues.
George H. Mitchell
University Co-op Society
Put Pensions in People's Hands
I thought the President's speech on the State of the Union was a resolute call to us to move ahead as Americans unified to achieve the three points of his message. It was a noteworthy call for all of us. A challenge for us to roll up our sleeves regardless of party affiliation and say, "let's roll!"
Hopefully our Congress will work with our president to equip all Americans with the dignity of a job. We are watching to see if they will take the lead and set the example for the rest of us. How great it will be to see them moving at one with our president.
Hopefully they will see fit to allow us to keep our tax cuts so we can spend our money ourselves.
I believe that each of us has a right to choose how we invest our retirement money. I was alarmed at the pension stuff proposed by the Democrats after the president's speech. Give us the right to make our own personal investments. An enlarged pension plan will only encumber small businesses with more paperwork.
Personally, I am now a Republican. But, first, I am an American. I trust our president because he trusts us to handle our responsibilities. Let's continue to live, remembering those who have given their lives. Let's step up our giving and start protecting each other. We are ready! Let's roll!
A Proud American From Round Rock
Safer Options for Stratus Roadway
We are writing to voice our concern regarding the proposed entrance/exit from the Stratus property to FM 1826.
We realize that Stratus is not responsible for the placement of existing roadways in the area, but why would they intentionally add to a very dangerous situation? Their property is bordered by Texas 45 and FM 1826 in Southwest Travis County.
FM 1826 is a two-lane, winding country road that is already overburdened with traffic. Adding 7,300 trips a day is inviting disaster. Routing traffic from the Stratus development onto Texas 45 is a much wiser choice. Most drivers will turn east onto Texas 45 heading for MoPac anyway.
If Stratus is permitted by the Texas Department of Transportation to use FM 1826, across from Appaloosa Run, it will surely add to the Travis County Highway death toll.
Carol and Jack Gilchrist
Make Your Voice Heard
I continue to be amused at the vitriol Mr. Black has for those of us who didn't vote as he saw fit for us in the last presidential election ["Page Two," Jan 25]. I can only imagine the contempt he must have for countries that actually offer multiple parties to address multiple points of view. Democracy, it seems to me, has exactly to do with the chaos of expressing one's own point of view (as well as the implicit obligation to vote for the same); dictatorships, on the other hand, offer the more tranquil route of limited, sanctioned options. For those who do enjoy voting outside the lines and speaking out, I encourage you to look into the activist phone service of Working Assets (workingassets.com or 800/362-7127). Not only does 1% of the annual charges get donated to nonprofits of the members' choice, way more fun, is the "Make Your Voice Heard Plan." Each month two issues are presented with phone numbers and contact persons. One free, five-minute phone call per day, per issue, is encouraged and there is little more satisfying these days than calling the White House comment line and letting Bush know how I want the government run. After all, if he doesn't know what I want, how can he possibly do it? Seriously, as per Michael Ventura's thoughtful essay ["Letters @ 3AM"] in the same issue, making our voices heard does make a difference, and WA is a nifty way to do this.
The Great 'MHz Myth'
This is in reference to Michael Connor's article about the new iMac ["The New iMac: Futurism Is So Passé," Jan. 25] and my plea that you find competent writers when explaining technical issues. While I appreciate the amount of research invested in finding out about the Canadian Time magazine's info leak, Michael forgot to explore the most important topic. He says, "True, it's not the fastest machine on the block ... but who really needs a gigahertz processor anyway?" In that statement he made one of the most notorious and ignorant statements one can make about the speed of a computer (Dijkstra would have a field day). I would like to refer Mr. Connor to Apple's Web site under the "MHz myth" section at www.apple.com/g4/myth/. On that Web site he will find that the G4 800 MHz processor is actually "faster than" a Pentium 1.7 GHz for certain benchmarks like graphics and video rendering (which is what the Apple is designed for). Please enroll Michael in a basic computer architecture course before he uses any more technical terms with which he is not familiar. "Faster than" when referring to computers is actually a very measured and accurate term with some well established processes for comparison. None of which have anything to do with the clock speed of the processor.
I am glad to see Michael Ventura is so concerned about our Constitutional rights ["Letters@3AM," Dec. 28]; though I disagree with him that said rights extend either to non-citizens or, especially, to possible (now realized) captives in war. Yet I am disappointed that, like a good party line "liberal," he draws the line at the Second Amendment, by mocking Attorney General John Ashcroft's refusal to (illegally, under the Brady Bill) use Justice Department records to determine whether detainees had ever purchased a gun. These records are required to be destroyed as soon as background checks of a purchaser of a firearm have determined whether or not he has a criminal record. This prevents the federal government from compiling a nationwide register of gun owners, an intrusion of privacy that I am surprised Mr. Ventura isn't happier to see the AG refuses to commit. Buying a gun doesn't make someone a terrorist or a criminal. The fact that any of the detainees might have done so would be quite irrelevant to the investigation ongoing. That self-proclaimed defenders of our rights fail to see that the right to own a firearm, for hunting or self-defense purposes, without being cataloged as some kind of danger to society, relegates their supposed concern to rather insignificant proportions, in my reckoning.
Get Out and Vote
I must protest your editorial ["Page Two"] on Jan. 25, Mr. Black. While most of it was fine, the first paragraph slammed Nader voters once again. I'm pretty sick of hearing how we "lost the election" and "got Bush elected." No, we didn't. We voted for an alternative to corporate rule. If you want to know the real culprits for the appointment of Bush, ask the millions of apathetic jackasses who didn't even bother to vote! To those people, I would like to send a hearty "Fuck You!" What was the percentage of turnout in 2000? Somewhere near 50%, I believe. (And presidential elections always have a "higher" turnout.) Had everyone exercised their right to vote, Bush never would have won ... rather, there would have been no questionable circumstances deciding the outcome. I realize that your article was not really about the election, but I am tired of hearing that bullshit line blaming those of us who want a real election and vote for a real alternative for our troubles. How many of you flag-waving asskissers actually got out and voted last November? For those who did vote, you have every right to wave the flag. If you didn't vote and don't make a habit of it, put away your American flag crap because you obviously don't believe in your country enough to participate in its democracy. One cannot throw money at every problem and expect it to go away. Yes, we have nothing but assholes running for office. If we are to believe our media sources, it's often a choice between the lesser of two evils. (Unfortunately, this sometimes includes your publication, Mr. Black.) It doesn't have to be! Write in candidates. Vote for anyone except the two major parties. Vote for Leslie Cochran. If you want to send a message of discontent to the powers that be, don't do nothing -- that only gives them your tacit agreement. If 60% or 70% of registered voters turn out and vote for everyone from Jennifer Gale to "my dick" for office, it may not get the corporate bloodsuckers off of our necks, but it will let them know we are tired of their crap. Thank you.
Vote or swallow!
Stop Racial Profiling
I have met personally with Officer Timothy Enlow ["Postmarks: Profiling? Not Quite." Jan. 18] on the matter of his firing and have gone out of my way to give him the benefit of the doubt. But there is simply no way to characterize his actions as anything other that racial profiling, which is a police tactic, not an allegation of personal racism.
Scott Henson's analysis ["Postmarks: Racial Profiling Runs Rampant," Jan. 11] was precisely right, as usual. His keen instinct and courage to speak out are precisely why he is in fact director of the ACLU of Texas Police Accountability Project, and absolutely authorized to speak on behalf of this organization. I stand by his comments.
But I'm not the only one. According to a recent ACLU survey of Texas police and sheriffs' departments' racial profiling policies, more than 100 identified "detaining the driver of a vehicle based on the determination that a person of that race, ethnicity, or national origin is unlikely to own or possess that specific make or model of vehicle" as an example of police behaviors that constitute racial profiling. That's what Enlow did.
Moreover, Officer Enlow's complaints of Henson's alleged errors are dramatically overblown. Henson's misgivings have been voiced by many others before. In July 2000, the 299th Judicial District Grand Jury issued an unprecedented report voicing "concerns about entrapment issues as well as the use of questionable probable cause circumstances such as 'appearing nervous or having a taillight not working.'" That these comments presaged Enlow's actions by nine months tells you his behavior is part of an ongoing problem at APD.
We salute Chief Knee for setting a fine example to other agencies around the state. If the consequence of racial profiling is termination, we are on our way to the promised land envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which we are all judged not by the color of our skin.
ACLU of Texas
Would somebody please take down the barricades on Ninth Street under the federal building?! They are maddeningly in the way. I will come down there personally with my shovel to scoop up the pieces if anyone tries to do anything even remotely terroristic. As a side thought, why the hell would one design a building that runs over the road anyway? Unless of course, the toilets drain directly into all the passing SUVs. Now, that would have been foresight!
Villas Make Sense
The location for the proposed Villas on Guadalupe has apartment buildings nearby on three sides with Hemphill Park on the fourth side. The Park provides a buffer for the neighborhoods to the north. It seems to be an ideal location for an apartment building of sound construction and architectural sensitivity. But the neighbors don't want it.
Instead, we encourage timid, shortsighted developers to build cookie-cutter, sprawl apartments outside of town, lots and lots of them. Just look at MoPac North and South and Parmer West. But what happens when one of them breaks away from the pack and wants to build in our central city near services and transportation? Big problem! Once again, we punish the progressive.
Go Bush Go
Three cheers for President Bush!
At last our nation has a leader who has vision, compassion, honor, determination, and will.
At last we are party to a State of the Union oration free of demagoguery and empty promises -- one filled with hope and true direction.
Let us call for a tremendous surge of public outcry against those who seek to place their personal and party agenda ahead of their patriotic duty.
Everyone ... write Senator Daschle a letter: "Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!"
Austin Cops & the Constitution
The trouble with local narcotics task forces is much more fundamental than that they too often make mistakes that get innocent people killed. The problem lies in conducting the operations as a "war" on drugs, that is, as a military operation, rather than as a law-enforcement operation.
If the Founders had contemplated "no knock" warrants or "dynamic entries," they would have explicitly included them in the restrictions of the Fourth Amendment. Search and arrest warrants are supposed to be served by knocking at the door, peacefully presenting the warrant to the subject or occupant, and giving him an opportunity to read it, and perhaps verify it, before proceeding.
Historically, "no knock" warrants were introduced to try to prevent the destruction of evidence. Now they are used routinely, even when no probable cause exists for their need to preserve evidence. But constitutionally, they can only be justified if there is probable cause, supported by the affidavit, that there is an imminent threat of injury or death to an innocent person, such as in a hostage situation.
It should be a rule that no one commits a crime by resisting a dynamic entry with deadly force. Anyone can put on black suits, yell "police!" and commit a home invasion, and someone who has no cause to expect the police has every justification to treat such an assault as criminal, which it is.
First, enforce the Constitution!
Candidate for Texas Attorney General, Libertarian Party
KUT Timing Suspect
Tell Nancy ["Postmarks: Change Is Not Good for KUT," Feb. 1] the fix is in place. Prior to the fundraiser, changes were subtle. For example, we haven't heard "Mondays are a mess" for quite some time. Now, Graham Shelby, he who finds his own voice very entertaining, is entertaining us with vocal gyrations that are supposed to be "talent." I am listening less, especially in the morning. I also find all these changes after the fundraiser to be suspect. I wonder how many of these were in place beforehand.
Of course, something Nancy alluded to may indeed be the case. Many new folks in town may not be able to appreciate John's cerebral approach. The more commercial sound may be more to their liking and aptitude. I know I won't be helping out financially in the future. I won't pay to listen to Graham Shelby tell me what's coming up next in 10 minutes on KUT. Even with the cute vocal tricks.
Hardy-Garcia: A Real Advocate
To The Editors:
Dianne Hardy-Garcia's departure from her post as executive director of the Lesbian & Gay Rights Lobby (LGRL) of Texas is a great loss, and a time to reflect on her estimable career and history of contribution to the betterment of Texas.
Dianne started with LGRL back in 1993, when this gay man moved from NY to Austin. I started "lobbying" because of Dianne. She spoke at an Austin/PFLAG meeting about the need for a hate-crimes bill, and I was moved to do something -- that is the essence of her, and LGRL's effect -- Dianne is a coalition-builder and a human catalyst.
At Dianne's urging, this beginner activist lobbied the legislature in '95, '97, '99, and 2001 -- testifying before House or Senate committees in every session along with her and hundreds of others, hoping that one day laws would protect all citizens from discrimination, and from being singled out for attack on the basis of minority status or sexual orientation. Over these many years, the multi-cultural, multi-racial alliance for a hate crimes bill never faltered -- aligned in pursuit of a goal, nurtured by people like Dianne, who insisted that none of us is as strong as all of us.
Last session, Texas saw the Hate Crimes Act signed into law, with Dianne leading the fight and the celebration. She has made Austin, all of Texas and the world a better place through her tireless efforts. I am so sorry to see this advocate move on, but so grateful for her time, effort, energy, and dedication to human rights.
This ex-New Yorker is still in Austin, happier than ever to have had the pleasure of working alongside this veteran of the legislative wars, and champion of the human race.
Vaya con Dios and thank you Dianne, from my heart and soul.
Props for G-town City Council
I would like to offer some brief shelter from the stormy political front thundering through Georgetown. I want to heartily commend our City Council's support of the San Gabriel Parkland Water Quality Pond. The pond's fortuitous proximity to the Rivery Development will benefit the area's aesthetics and ecology immensely, as well as complement our community through its educational opportunities as a living laboratory. I am also grateful for the vision and engineering behind this project within city departments, the Urban Design Group, and others of which I am not aware. There are realistic and inspiring options for fostering creative partnerships with nature, co-existing in responsible, practical, and powerful ways. Reasonable expectations can become attainable standards. How very refreshing and promising it is to see a city government giving a gift of beauty to the land: preparations instead of reparations. I deeply appreciate Georgetown City Council's judicious practice of reputable stewardship of our natural resources. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Council Member Sam Pfiester for inviting me to walk the Rivery site with Wal-Mart's Head Engineer, nationally renowned forestry consultant Steve Clark, City Planning Director Amelia Sondgeroth, and Interim City Manager Tom Yantis. The superlative professionalism, creative sensibilities, and dedication of Wal-Mart's design team does my skeptical heart a lot of good. To the best of their abilities, Wal-Mart's folks are genuinely interested in maintaining the physiological integrity of the site, in spite of the imposing constraints of the legendary footprint. They encouraged my passionate advocacy for the trees, maintaining a flexible, receptive attitude rather than an immovable "We Won't" stance. I was also heartened by their openness to my sincere plea to pardon a particularly deserving tree by considering the relocation of certain parking spaces. So, thank you very much Council Member Pfiester for supporting citizen involvement and providing a lesson to myself and to others who may think their voices will disappear in the haystack: My words may seem like a pebble dropped in still waters, but the ripples do reverberate and are capable of manifesting positive changes in the many unique landscapes of our Georgetown.
Anne Marie Dorsa
RE: The City Council's Approval of the Villas on Guadalupe
I recently learned of the City Council's approval of the Villas on Guadalupe. After reviewing the "Postmarks" in your January 25 edition, I cannot help but feel sympathy for the members of the North University Neighborhood Association (NUNA). I grew up in Aldridge Place West 33rd Street, and it saddens me to see this charming Austin neighborhood defiled by the City Council's approval of this project in its present form.
I am also compelled to point out that this Council and its predecessor have been historically unfriendly and unresponsive to the wishes of neighborhoods throughout Austin. This is especially true when the Council has been forced to make a choice between the sanctity of a neighborhood and big bucks thrown at them from a developer.
For example, several years ago the City Council (which is largely the same council seated today) unanimously approved the Dell Jewish Community Center project located on Hart Lane and bounded by Greystone Boulevard, Chimney Corners, and Far West Boulevard. The Council's approval came in spite of protests by no less than five of the surrounding neighborhood associations. As a result, our neighborhood was subjected to months and months of pounding, jackhammering, and choking white clouds of limestone dust that covered our cars and lawns.
The Community Center is completed now, but the problems it has caused still linger. (It should be noted, this "community" center is only for those in the "community" who can afford its rather exorbitant membership fees). For example, during moderate to heavy rain showers, our family property receives rain runoff from the Community Center property, that renders the driveway to our family home unusable. In a recent heavy storm, water actually came into our home despite my father's efforts to prevent it. This affront I lay squarely at the feet of the City Council.
Then, of course there is the well-chronicled battle between the Hyde Park Neighborhoods and the Hyde Park Baptist Church, as well as the annexation fiasco during the early days of Kirk Watson's tenure.
While I sympathize with the NUNA, and I applaud their resolve to support only candidates who "truly demonstrate they represent the people of this community," the time to elect such candidates was many years ago, when other Austin neighborhoods were being ripped asunder. I can only hope that the neighborhoods who have endured the injustices of this Council will work together in the future to see to it that the character and dignity of our old Austin neighborhoods is preserved for future generations.
Very truly yours,
James F. Booher
Better Than Riverside
Re: Villas on Guadalupe proposed housing: I'm in favor. My opinion is: It is much better to put dense student housing within walking distance to campus than miles away [like south, on Riverside Drive]. The proposed location is an appropriate one for dense housing. Enable more students to walk to class -- a good idea.
Unhappy Cable Customer
I have been a resident of Austin for 23 years, and during this time I have seen the TV cable company laying cables and setting up their equipment here and like most others felt very elated that we would be receiving TV signals without the need of antennas. I was assured that as it was allowed by the city they would be able to control pricing by the company using our property.
My protest is against Time Warner and their continued escalation of the price for cable service in Austin without considering the welfare of the customers and the lack of ability of our governing body to have any input into their rating process. I can only speak of my service plan and situation in this instance. We only had the basic and standard packages and they have been elevated 23.07% in the last year. For Time Warner's information, my Social Security paycheck increased 2.6% in the last year.
I am not interested in the propaganda about additional choices and selections as I didn't ask for these, nor do I have any choice of programs you put on the packages. I feel that Time Warner is greedy and price gouging the captive clientele they control. Neither AOL Time Warner nor any other company should have the ability to support any division or debts they have incurred through mergers and acquisitions by another part of their organization and this includes our cable system in Austin.
We in Austin have allowed Time Warner to use the people's property to run their cables and place equipment. Should this not entitle us to have an input into what our citizens are charged for this service? I am well aware that enough political and governmental agencies have been bought to allow Time Warner to raise prices at will but there has to be a better way. The only thing I knew to do was to drop back to the basic service and this what I have done.
Jack E. Rogers
Out With the Old --
Michael King's article in the January 25 Chronicle was incomplete in its coverage of the scope of the Austin Film Commission ["What's in a Name?" Jan. 25]. Gary Bond's lack of vision to protect the name of the Austin Film Commission is the first clue that perhaps someone else needs to be in charge. I am encouraged to learn that private business owners have once again stepped up to the plate where the city of Austin has struck out. It seems as if Richard Aleksander and Roxanne Wheless have realized the potential for the influx of possibly hundreds of millions of dollars into the Austin area economy through the production of films locally. It seems equally as obvious that they have the vision that Gary Bonds lacks in realizing that the responsibility of the Austin Film Commission is to recognize the crucial relationship between the film industry, the local government, and the private businesses. I applaud these two private entrepreneurs vision and efforts and wish them well.
AOL Time Warner Monopoly
When is someone going to get the Justice Department to look into how the previous administration allowed AOL Time Warner to get such a death grip on entertainment and Internet access in America? AOL/Assholes on Line gobbled up Compuserv and has put hundreds of independent Internet service providers out of business. They have a lock on most cable TV in most larger cities and areas of the country, they control a major segment of the so-called "News Media" through their publications and buying that rathole CNN. He who controls information controls the people, and this mega-corporation, which came to life under the Clinton administration and which has oddly enough avoided the wrath of silly little trolls like Jim Hightower who bitch about "Large Global Corporations" at the drop of a hat, has control of a large segment of the media that provides information. They control what we watch, how information is presented to the public, they control a large segment of the Internet access in America and they control some very major news organizations. So when is someone going to start looking at AOL Time Warner/CNN to see what harm has been caused to independent ISP providers and small cable TV companies? Who gives a shit about Netscape v. Microsoft anyhow when we have a real monopoly to deal with? Time to get control of this beast before we all realize that one mega-corporation controls TV, news, and Internet access. Beep Beep this Assholes on Line ...
The 'Home-Front' Effort
Homeland Security of today -- brings back glorious, sad, and happy memories of long-ago, WWII. When thousands of Mexican-Americans not serving in the military engaged in "home-front" efforts such as bond drives. In the forefront of this effort were organizations like LULAC. For example, the El Paso, Texas, council No. 132 formed civil defense committees that instructed Mexican-Americans on what action should be taken if the war ever came to the United States.
A special measure of patriotism and endorsement of the war was the selling and buying of war bonds, a task that LULAC members took seriously. They also mustered support for the men in uniform by collecting gift packages and sending them to members of the armed forces.
In Phoenix, Ariz., middle-class Mexican-American women joined a campaign sponsored by local women's clubs to harvest cotton and other crops needed for the war effort that would go unpicked because of labor shortages.
Our America "needs us all now" -- more than ever, "teamwork, working together." May God continue to watch over America 24/7!
Moses P. Saldana Sr.
Stop Pet Overpopulation
I am writing on behalf of the Humane Society/SPCA of Austin. We are concerned about companion animal overpopulation in this country, and we are doing something about it in Austin and Travis County.
Each year shelter workers are forced to kill approximately five million homeless cats and dogs. That's one every six and one half seconds. Although many of these animals are healthy and adoptable, the sheer number of them outweighs the availability of good homes. America's taxpayers bear the cost of picking up, housing, and ultimately killing these potential pets -- as much as $176 for each one in some jurisdictions. Millions of cats and dogs never even make it to shelters. They are abandoned by their guardians, bred uncontrollably, and ultimately die from starvation, exposure, disease, or some other human-inflicted cruelty.
Fortunately, there is some good news -- Maddie's Pet Project. Maddie's Fund, a private foundation with the goal of ending euthanasia of all adoptable animals by 2006, has awarded funds to support Maddie's Pet Project in Austin. The project launched July 1, 2001.
As Maddie's Pet Project's lead agency, the Humane Society/SPCA of Austin and Travis County has collaborated with the animal control facility, Town Lake Animal Center, 44 private veterinary hospitals, and the Capital Veterinary Medical Association. The goal -- to create awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering pets by providing discount vouchers for the surgeries and promoting pet adoptions.
The Doris Day Animal Foundation's Spay Day USA will be held on February 26, 2002. Its simple objective is to encourage every humane American to take responsibility for having at least one dog or cat spayed or neutered. This is the perfect day for area residents to take advantage of the $25 off vouchers! Vouchers can be picked up at the Humane Society/SPCA located at 124 West Anderson Lane and at Town Lake Animal Center, located at 1156 West Cesar Chavez, or can be downloaded from www.austinspca.com.
Fix your pet! Fix the problem. Use one of Maddie's Pet Project's vouchers to spay or neuter a companion animal on February 26, 2002.
Dineen Heard/Public Relations
For the third time, I went through this week's entire issue and found nothing on Mack Brown's scandalous pay raise, except this little letter by Bruce Marshall on Faulkner's proposed fee increase ["Postmarks: UT Surcharge Faulkner's Fault," Jan. 25]. I shouldn't be surprised, since I also heard from Karen Rae that she's keeping a guy in San Diego for $200 grand to lobby there for light rail here, and you never mentioned it, either. I know your position regarding progress, and these actions might be legal, but when you (the media) balance progress and issues in Austin, you paint it as it was all concerning the middle class and the public servants. You know about the rapes, robberies, assaults, murders, and even family violence going on in town, as a direct consequence of the psychological impact that the privileges and actions of these outsiders cause in our little minds. It's all out of frustration. Just wait a couple of years, when all this computer thing is over, and you will see a new wave of crime. I can feel that UT is no longer within the reach of the people of Austin, but that's what you get when you live in a city where a lunatic institution is built long before a big University, and the media ignores it.
'Bias' Is No FAIR
To the Editor:
Readers in danger of being suckered by the well-coordinated right-wing media blitz surrounding Bernard Goldberg's new book Bias (extending even to a recent photo op with President Bush carrying a copy under his arm, cannily helping both to publicize the book and to suggest that Bush is actually reading it) might want to check out some of the January 2002 postings at www.dailyhowler.com, which show just how sleazy Goldberg is in his attempts to feed the standard mythology about the "liberal media." A highlight: his selective, out-of-context quotation from a 1994 New York Times story which supposedly exemplifies "politically correct male-bashing" or somesuch -- never bothering to mention that the story in question is actually about insect behavior! Ah, standards.
Then the reader might want to mosey over to www.fair.org and peruse some of their invaluable work documenting real, and far more common, forms of media bias: de facto censorship by commercial and corporate concerns, over-reliance on "official" sources, etc. And then wonder why Bernard Goldberg and his ilk get scads of media attention -- even on PBS's Newshour -- while FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) does not. For wonder is the beginning of wisdom.
Railing Against Light Rail
It's me again; on the insistent push on light rail, now in the hands of the airport ex-manager, the guy in San Diego, and Karen herself, on her new job as "consultant" for CapMet, each making a good 200 grand. Your lame coverage of the event ["Austin@ Large," Feb. 1] is what gets me. You didn't warn the people of Austin that this is just three more people committed to bring in more fat guys from God knows where to capitalize in a job in which all details are worked out and ready to go, who in turn will recommend even more outsiders for the execution of the whole thing, with the excuse of bringing in the best and brightest, in detriment of the sorry losers graduating from Austin schools. You made the mistake not to warn the "voters" that light rail will not benefit themselves or their children at all in regard of Ms. Rae's new step stone, but only attract new outsiders, spread out ignorance and poverty in Austin, and set up the path for a new New York.